Topics: Arts, Entertainment, Pacific Affairs

New film promotes Pasifika female empowerment

By Jessica Tyson

The critically acclaimed film Waru was a resounding success- its producers are now set to premiere their newest film, Vai.

Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton say their ultimate goal with Vai is to "again give voice to an underrepresented community and spark conversation about the empowerment of women through culture.”

Similar in style to WaruVai will connect eight stories about the journey towards empowerment through culture, spanning the lifetime of one woman. 

Vai was filmed between August and September 2018 and enabled nine female Pasifika filmmakers the opportunity to amplify the, often underrepresented, stories.

Waru is a film about child abuse, culture, media reporting and shame told from the perspective of Māori women. 

Warkia and McNaughton say each of the directors, from Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Cook Islands, Samoa, Niue and Aotearoa, were selected from over 65 Pasifika filmmakers, bringing unique perspectives to the film.

The directors include Sharon and Nicole Whippy, Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Matasila Freshwater, Amberley Jo Aumua, Mīria George, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Dianna Fuemana and Becs Arahanga.

Vai will have its Southern hemisphere premiere at the Māoriland Film Festival in Ōtaki in March.

Festival Director Libby Hakaraia says the event is an opportunity to bring together indigenous filmmakers from across the globe to share their stories.

“It’s not often you encounter a film that you realise has changed the film landscape both in New Zealand and overseas.  I felt that about Waru," she says. 

"Vai is a celebration of indigenous collaboration and one that amplifies the voice and careers of indigenous female directors.”

About Waru

Waru is a film about child abuse, culture, media reporting and shame told from the perspective of Māori women.

It is made up of eight short films of ten minutes each, written and directed by Māori women filmmakers.

The film premiered to sold-out houses at the 2017 New Zealand International Film Festival.

It had its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017, and has since screened in numerous international film festivals. 

Waru remained in New Zealand cinemas for over 20 weeks, with a cumulative box office of almost $400K.